EN PLEIN AIR By Margaret Riley
Have you heard of this? Don’t feel alone. Until a few years ago, I had no idea what it was or that it existed. I’ve done some research on it and have found this is what we as artists have been doing for years, decades, centuries! En Plein Air means the act of painting outdoors (Wikipedia definition).
In the 1800s, light and weather became important to artists such as Monet, Renoir, Pissarro, and Degas. The movement started mainly in France. Artists became fascinated at that time with painting outdoors in natural lighting and painting what was before them. Hence, the word En Plein Air.
In the 1900s the box easel was created making it easier to stand or sit while outdoors painting the scene before you. Boxes were created specifically for artists to carry their work to their painting location, which can be found throughout the internet if you want to invest in.
There are challenges to doing En Plein Air. The type of paint you use needs to be considered as the elements can dry your paint too quickly or slow down the drying time. You have to remember that you are invading into the wild animal’s “space” as well as bugs! Bugs can be attracted to the paint you are using (gnats always love acrylic paint!). You could have onlookers fascinated with your work that will ask questions thus keeping you from your “work”. And the weather can be a factor as well. Dress and prepare accordingly before going out to capture your masterpiece. If it is a sunny day, take an umbrella to clamp on your easel to protect you and your painting from the sun.
Check your local area for En Plein Air organizations. I know in one state I used to live in, they all travel as a group to a different spot every month just to paint! Some organizations stay locally and do buildings that someday may be gone, and the En Plein Air groups do paintings to preserve how the buildings appeared at the time of the painting.
Now you can honestly say that you know what En Plein Air is. Grab some supplies and go enjoy the outdoors while creating a keepsake for future generations.
A painting I did of the St. Augustine (FL) lighthouse. Stood with my easel, in the sand, and enjoyed painting it.
Lighthouse Photo by Margaret Riley